Thursday, January 24, 2013

Year-End Report: Looking Back at 2012 - Odds & Ends

As you can tell, this is coming a bit late. Now that you have had the time to shake off the year-end lists from lesser tastemakers, you can pursue the one true 'best of' from Stereo Typing. Fine, that's not exactly why this was posted so late, but it does give you a chance to look over this feature and judge on its own merits. The first part of my coverage is examining just about every aspect of entertainment apart from the almighty album. The Top 50 Albums of 2012 will follow shortly. Below are the top EPs, 7"s, shows, and a few other categories of interest. There will be links to previous reviews where appropriate, otherwise I took the time to say a few words and/or link to material. Please check it all out after the jump, and don't forget to leave a comment if you discovered something new!

Top 10 EPs:
  1. Speedy Ortiz - Sports EP
    Like so many bands this past year, Speedy Ortiz culls their influences from the 90’s underground rock scene. What sets them apart is theirs comes from the far corners and recalls the overlooked misfits of the era such as Helium and Swirlies. However, the band is not poised to be overlooked themselves, having been named as one of the best new bands by the Boston Phoenix. On the back of a soaring chorus and winding guitars, “Silver Spring” is perfect validation for such accolades.

    The squirming guitar-driven tracks like “Basketball” and “Suck Buddies”, which bookend the EP, demonstrates their command over writhing rhythms. Frontwoman Sadie Dupuis pairs sardonic lyrics with a bittersweet delivery to compliment these idiosyncratic jams. Centerpiece “Curling” is a revealing ballad of loss named after “the saddest sport” as Dupuis herself puts it and serves as a welcome detour. The pulsating “Indoor Soccer” is another highlight with its memorable confessions of “I fucking hate indoor soccer.” These five tracks are a perfect introduction to one of my favorite bands and a glimpse of things to come. The band just wrapped up their debut full-length and anyone who has seen them on their recent tour can attest that the new songs expand on the promise here.

  2. Sebadoh - Secret EP
  3. The Antlers - Undersea
    The AntlersUndersea EP was 2012’s dreamiest release. Listening to the four tracks within gives one the feeling that they are floating in a tranquil sea, marveling in the beauty of nature. Undersea takes the most soulful moments from 2011’s Burst Apart and turns them into glistening gems. The tight songwriting and meditative atmosphere do justice to a release that the band themselves accurately described as “an EP in length, but well beyond that in scope.”

  4. J.Nolan x Reese Jones - The Archetype EP
  5. Graph - EP 3
  6. Geronimo! - Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 2 - The Burden of Genius
  7. Mr. Dream - Fatherland
    Mr. Dream merged several indie and alternative touchstones such as Nirvana, the Jesus Lizard, and the Pixies on their 2011 debut, Trash Hit. The result was one of my favorite records of that year, but not one that was particularly original. 2012’s Fatherland EP showed the band coming into their own with unique guitar tones and innovative songwriting. Songs like the title track have a more stylistic approach than their peers and employs absurd humor to make it even more interesting. The menacingly upbeat “Palaces Complex” serves as further evidence that they are at the forefront of post-punk. "Slow Leaner" reveals the band are not devoid of surprises either with it's clean guitars and a drum-less structure. I have a feeling Mr. Dream will be a fun band to follow in the future.

  8. Lar Kaye - EP
    The debut EP from Lar Kaye of Adebisi Shank is the best kept secret of last year. The five track solo EP is full of mystifying polyrhythmic jams that combine the robotic riffs of Adebisi Shank with glitchy electronics. The hyper-textured R&B freakout "Effector" would be my 2012 pick for best song you never heard. Elsewhere on the EP, you can find 8-bit flourishes, Battles-like math beats, and fuzzy synths. If all of this sounds absurdly fascinating, that's because it is.

  9. Trach - Heavy Arms EP
  10. Cheyenne Marie Mize - We Don’t Need
    Cheyenne Marie Mize’s We Don’t Need EP was one I discovered at the very beginning of 2012, but it stuck with me throughout the year. The reason for this was probably the fluidity in which it plays out. Opener “Wishing Well” is a two minute pop song with a bluesy vocal melody and a minimalist structure. It is an impeccable example of her thoughtful songwriting and soulful delivery. Over the course of the next five songs, the EP presents varied reasons to cite Mize as one of the most exciting voices in blues/folk, climaxing with show-stopper “It Lingers” and cooling off “Back Around”. When she sings "Let it go / Oh, let it go" in “It Lingers”, you feel every word and that is the kind of rare passion not many vocalists possess.
Top 7 7"s:
  1. Grass is Green / Two Inch Astronaut - Split Dicks
  2. Future Islands - "Tomorrow" / "The Fountain"
  3. Fletcher C. Johnson - "Messin’ Up My Mind" / "Lost My Head"
  4. Francisco The Man - "Tiger" / "Broken Arrows"
  5. Slowdance - "Boyfriend" / "Airports"
  6. The Dirty Nil - Little Baby Metal Fist
  7. Spider Bags - "Papa Was a Shithead" / "I Wish That I Never Had Fed You"
This list also doubles as 'bands to look out for in 2013', since most of the rising artists on these 7"s have (or should have) something out this year.

Top 5 Reissues, Compilations, and Live Albums:
  1. My Bloody Valentine - EP’s 1988-1991
  2. Alex Chilton - Free Again: The 1970 Sessions
  3. The Decemberists - We All Raise Our Voices to the Air (Live Songs 4.11-8.11)
  4. The Flaming Lips - The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends
  5. DJ Shadow - Total Breakdown: Hidden Transmissions from the MPC Era 1992-1996

Top 5 Shows:
  1. She Keeps Bees / Heliotropes / Young Adults / Slothrust / Pile / Eula / Sleepies / Yvette / Mr. Dream / Roomrunner / Speedy Ortiz / Fat History Month / Trabajo / Geronimo! / Ovlov / The Flag - October 20, 2012 @ The Paper Box
    The EPIC line-up you see above was part of the EISGTCMG showcase and provided me the opportunity to see so many bands I was meaning to see, all in one place. There was not one miss among the performances and it was quite astonishing to see a 16 band bill run so smoothly.

  2. Bad Brains / H2O - April 16, 2012 @ Paradise Rock Club
  3. Future Islands / Ed Schrader’s Music Beat / Skimask - April 28, 2012 @ Paradise Rock Club
  4. Codeine / Thalia Zedek - June 30, 2012 @ Brighton Music Hall
    Codeine is one of my favorite 90's bands and I never thought I would have the chance to catch them live. The slowcore sad bastards put on an entrancing performance that was a delightful bummer.

  5. Pile / Grass is Green / Ovlov / Fat History Month - January 28, 2012 @ O’Brien’s
    This show was an early 2012 highlight featuring four of my favorite bands at one of my favorite venues and was part of the annual Berfest celebration. Berfest takes place this week and the same lineup plus Speedy Ortiz will be featured at TT the Bear's Place. I would not miss this one if I were you!

Top 5 Artists I “Didn’t Get”:

Kendrick Lamar
Kitty Pryde
The Caretaker
Azealia Banks

    Top 5 Disappointments:
    1. The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet
    2. Yeasayer - Fragrant World
    3. The Big Pink - Future This
    4. Passion Pit - Gossamer
    5. David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant

    Top 5 Comedy Albums:
    1. Patrice O’Neal [RIP] - Mr. P
    2. Doug Stanhope - Before Turning the Gun on Himself
    3. Paul F. Tompkins - Laboring Under Delusions
    4. Kyle Kinane - Whiskey Icarus
    5. Louie CK - Word: Live at Carnegie Hall

    Top 10 Movies:
    1. Django Unchained
      The latest from Quentin Tarantino combines everything I have come to love and want in film. It is cleverly funny, beautifully shot, thought-provoking, and action-packed. At it's core, Django is the most violent romcom of all time. Combine that with an acid western that seamlessly transverses almost three hours of film, and you have the most enthralling cinematic experience of 2012. Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson give chilling performances that you won't soon forget. Christopher Waltz does an excellent job as the likable bounty hunter alongside Jamie Foxx's complex titular character. As always, the dialogue is one of the main attractions and contains some of the best lines that Tarantino has penned yet.

    2. Silver Linings Playbook
      As an avid Eagles fan, who moved back in with his parents while trying to reshape his life, this movie was painfully relatable. Under a lessor director, the result could have easily fallen to prey cheeseball movie clichés. Brilliant execution by David O. Russell, one of my all time favorite directors, and stunning performances made it all the more powerful.

    3. Moonrise Kingdom
      Wes Anderson's diorama-come-to-life approach took on new heights in the surprisingly adventurous Moonrise Kingdom. This may be the best example yet where Anderson's signature aesthetic matches the warm and quirky sweetness of the story. The child actors put on better performances than most of the adults that masquerade as actors in Hollywood. Also, Bill Murray!

    4. Seven Psychopaths
      Seven Psychopaths is the second effort by writer/director Martin McDonagh following In Bruges, which was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 81st Academy Awards in 2009. Seven Psychopaths is in the same pitch black dramedy vein, but may actually be more creatively audacious. The characters and images from this film will stick with you long after you leave the theatre. The gripping and original screenplay still leaves me wondering how it eluded further recognition.

    5. The Master
      The divisive new film from the master himself, Paul Thomas Anderson, is probably the most beautifully shot of the year. The film doesn't hand you any answers, only questions, and is one of the more compelling examinations of the human condition. There aren't many other movies that can put you directly in the mindset of someone fallen to cult mentality. Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are incendiary, especially in the infamous first 'processing' scene, which will shake you to your core.

    6. The Dark Knight Rises
      The Dark Knight was simply the ultimate blockbuster and the one that directors should strive for henceforth. Bane has always been my favorite Batman villain and seeing a fully realized version of him portrayed on the silver screen had me totally nerding out. As someone who read the comic arc growing up, I appreciated the nods to the source material. Christopher Nolan closed his trilogy with a film that transcends what people imagine when they think of a comic book movie. The Dark Knight could have easily been hampered by goofiness but Nolan's direction added a convincing humanity to all the characters.

    7. Holy Motors
      It seems like I have been waiting an eternity for a new film from David Lynch or Alejandro Jodorowsky. In lieu of this, the cinema gods have graced us with Holy Motors from director Leos Carax. In essence, a twisted love letter to cinema, Holy Motors keeps you engaged through a series of perplexing vignettes. This is one that will have philistines crying "Pretentious!" but for those of us who like their movies to be equal parts stimulating and bizarre, it's one of the more rewarding in recent memory.

    8. Argo
      Forget Lincoln, seriously, Argo is the best historical drama to come out of 2012. Ben Affleck has once again done a tremendous job capturing the emotion of the material while putting on a surprising performance. The edge-of-your-seat tension of this political thriller grabs your attention and never lets go. The Academy may overlook Affleck but don't let that stop you from appreciating this masterpiece.

    9. Beasts of the Southern Wild
      Beasts observes the way of life in a ramshackle bayou community through the eyes of an inquisitive child. It is a glimpse into part of America that we don't know or choose to believe doesn't exist. The performance from rising star Quvenzhané Wallis is seriously out of this world portraying the emotion that the story necessitates. Get ready for a full-on assault of your feels.

    10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
      Never have I been so sure that I was going to hate a movie, and ended up absolutely loving it. I have never read the book, which seems to be one of the most beloved of my generation (I should probably get on that), but Perks utilizes some of the best editing and pacing I have seen in a film to tell a multifaceted story. I haven't seen many people talking about it, so I guess it will have to settle for being one of the best coming-of-age movies I have ever seen and perhaps a cult classic. It is very clear that novel author Stephen Chbosky has perfectly executed his vision in his new role as director/screenwriter.

    Top 5 TV Shows:
    1. Louie
    2. Boardwalk Empire
    3. Breaking Bad
    4. Homeland
    5. Wilfred
    Yeah that's right, I liked this past season of Boardwalk Empire better than Breaking Bad.

    Top 5 Podcasts:
    1. WTF with Marc Maron
      I spent a lot of time writing in 2012 and podcasts serve as the perfect accompaniment to such a lonely activity. Marc Maron stepped up his game with this past year's WTF interviews. As a comedy nerd, nowhere can you get a better glimpse into the people who make you laugh. 2012 also found Maron bringing his distinctive interview style to the music world, presenting must hear discussions with elusive artists such as J Mascis, Fiona Apple, and Jack White.

    2. SModcast
      The team of Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier could discuss literally anything and make it sidesplittingly funny. Over several episodes during 2012, they offered their commentary to found tapes of a 20-year Kevin Smith dubbed Emo-Kev. This examination of the young adult mind was savagely funny and alarmingly revealing.

    3. The Duncan Trussell Family Hour
      I first discover Duncan Trussell when he opened for Neil Hamburger at Great Scott. Normally, comedic openers are shaking at best but I was blown away by his set which left me in stitches. Once I checked out the podcast that he mentioned having, I was instantly hooked. What sets him apart from other podcasters is the level to which he is willing to get into deep existential discussion. Highlights include his discussions with Emil Amos (Om, Grails, Holy Sons, Lilacs & Champagne), Joey Diaz, and an interview with his own mother that was simultaneously sweet, funny, and heartbreaking.

    4. Comedy Bang Bang
      Scott Aukerman plays the ultimate straight man that pairs perfectly with the chaotic comedy of this podcast. Nothing had me laughing harder last year than the characters that he had stop by the studio played by Paul F. Tompkins, Nick Kroll, and a rotating cast of others. The episode that was voted #1 in their best of 2012 countdown might serve as the single funniest thing to come out of the past year.

    5. The Pod F. Tompkast
      The episodes pop up inconsistently, but when they do, it is always a treat. Paul F. Tompkins mixes curious rants with the delicate piano styling of Eban Schletter and intermittent skits to make the perfect late night listening experience. The skits featuring frequent guest Jen Kirkman are the real draw and are some of the best since his time in Mr. Show.

    Top 5 Music Videos:
    1. OFF! - “Borrow and Bomb” / “I’ve Got News For You”
    2. Father John Misty - “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”
    3. Grimes - “Oblivion”
    4. Jack White - “Sixteen Saltines”
    5. Anthony and the Johnsons - “Cut the World”

    Remix of the Year:
    Zola Jesus - "In Your Nature" (David Lynch Remix)

    Show-Stealing Guest Rap Verse of the Year:
    Capital STEEZ [R.I.P.] on "Survival Tactics" by Joey Bada$$

    Sexy Time Jam of the Year:
    Disclosure - "Latch"

    Top 5 Pop Songs Featuring the Word ‘You’:
    1. Solange - "Losing You"
    2. Frank Ocean - "Thinking About You"
    3. Miguel - "Do You…"
    4. AlunaGeorge - "Watching Over You"
    5. Anna Lunoe & Flume - "I Met You"

    Album that warrants it's own category for being an extraordinary and challenging record but not something you can listen to often:
    Swans - The Seer

    Obligatory Category for Fat History Month Release of the Year:
    Fat History Month - Bad History Demos

    Top 2 releases that weren’t included in my top 50 only because they were not on Spotify and I wanted to make a big playlist, but they are fucking spectacular and you should go to their bandcamp pages and immediately purchase them:
    1. Two Inch Astronaut - Red Pancake and the Dark Energy
    2. Krill - No Alam Hris

    Top 5 honorable mentions that are great from front to back but still did not make my top 50, demonstrating what a great year 2012 was for music:
    1. PAWS - Cokefloat!
    2. Porcelain Raft - Strange Weekend
    3. Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits
    4. Titus Andronicus - Local Business
    5. OFF! - OFF!

    Top 5 aural-teases; music critics already had ear-boners for these releases but forgot that the artists never put out:
    1. My Bloody Valentine
    2. The Avalanches
    3. Madvillian
    4. Dr. Dre
    5. Mazzy Star

    Anticipated Releases:

    Bleeding Rainbow - Yeah Right [Kanine]
    Buke and Gase - General Dome [Brassland]
    Ducktails - The Flower Lane [Domino]
    Local Natives - Hummingbird [Frenchkiss/Infectious]
    The Ruby Suns - Christopher [Sub Pop]

    Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse [Atlantic/Canvasback]
    Guards - In Guards We Trust [Black Bell]
    Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God [ATO]
    Night Beds - Country Sleep [Dead Oceans]
    Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II [Jagjaguwar]

    K-X-P - 2 [Manimal/Melodic]
    Foals - Holy Fire [Transgressive]
    Pissed Jeans - Honeys [Sub Pop]
    Veronica Falls - Waiting for Something to Happen [Slumberland/Bella Union]

    Beach Fossils - Clash the Truth [Captured Tracks]
    Iceage - You’re Nothing [Matador/Escho]
    Jamie Lidell - Jamie Lidell [Warp]
    Major Lazer - Free the Universe [Mad Decent/Downtown]
    Matmos - The Marriage of True Minds [Thrill Jockey]
    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away [Bad Seed]
    STRFKR - Miracle Mile [Polyvinyl]
    Superchunk - "I Hate History" b/w "Glue" (SS Decontrol Cover) [Matador]

    Atoms for Peace - Amok [XL]
    Grave Babies - Crusher [Hardly Art]
    Johnny Marr - The Messenger [Sire/ADA]
    Shout Out Louds - Optica [Merge]

    Mice Parade - Candela [Fat Cat]

    Low - The Invisible Way [Sub Pop]
    Marnie Stern - The Chronicles of Marnia [Kill Rock Stars]
    Team Ghost - Rituals [Wsphere]

    The Knife - Shaking the Habitual [Mute]

    Sun Kil Moon and the Album Leaf - Perils From the Sea [Caldo Verde]

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